Every year, millions of people visit the African continent for the express purpose of seeing sights they would not find anywhere else on the planet. A number of these people embark on African safari game drives to view the majestic wildlife. During these drives, they learn all about the gorgeous, unique animals in the area, but what about the vehicles they ride in?
While travelling to a new continent to learn about cars may seem silly, Africa’s game viewing vehicles truly are a species unto their own. Most have been customized by hard-working individuals to provide the optimal game viewing experience while still delivering on reliable 4x4 performance.
Learn about these wonderful, dependable vehicles and how they make your game drive experience better by reading on.
There are two main different types of game drive vehicles: open and closed.
Open game drive vehicles have been modified to have their canopy removed, or they have a system where the closed sides lift up, pop up or can be completely removed. The result is open-air travel with nearly 360° of viewability.
This situation seems like it lets in the elements, but it actually helps keep you cooler and prevents mosquitos and other nasty insects from getting trapped in the vehicle with you. In fact, while the vehicle is moving, most insects have trouble keeping up!
Open vehicles typically have four rows of stadium-style seats, where each row behind the driver is taller than the last. They typically fit 6-7 travellers, and have space for a driver and his spotter.
Closed game drive vehicles more closely resemble their unmodified counterparts. They may also have pop-up or lift-away panels, but the viewing range is more limited. Taking photos from these vehicles when you are not by a window seat is more difficult, but you are protected from the elements during longer, faster drives. Guides use closed vehicles more often on longer trips upon sealed roads to keep viewing comfortable, even at higher speeds.
You will see all sorts of different 4x4 models being used as modified game viewing vehicles, but there are two extremely common names: Land Rover and Land Cruiser.
The Land Rover series of 4x4 vehicles was actually created for British military operations, particularly in North Africa during WWII. In a sense, Africa made the brand what it is. You will find modified Land Rover Defenders from the late 80s to mid 90s most regularly as modified game viewing vehicles. These sturdy, reliable models have stellar off-road performance and are easy to keep running thanks to a large pool of available replacement parts.
The Toyota J70 Land Cruiser, first produced in 1984, is another popular vehicle to modify. It continues to be made internationally, even while the North American version of the Land Cruiser turns into a more family-oriented vehicle. These rugged cars are affordable and can be made into a modified open-air game viewing vehicle with a canopy and open sides.
Land Rovers and Land Cruisers are also commonly used as closed game drive vehicles. Some safari tour companies have even modified the Land Cruiser to fit 10 people by stretching the wheelbase and adding a Eurovan-style canopy. Land Rover Defenders with pop-up canopies are also common, as are older Mercedes G-Wagen models.
Another common type of viewing vehicle is a minibus. While these buses cannot take on the rougher unsealed trails, they are perfect for well-maintained paved roads in parks like Kruger. The tradeoff of having to share your drive with up to 12 people is that the seats are often more comfortable and the vehicle may even have air conditioning.
You can choose your game drive experience when you work through Roho Ya Chui to find some of the most reputable lodges, game drive companies and trackers around. Our partners can provide the open, closed-top or private experience you desire, and they know how to work with others to find the absolute best wildlife viewing in the bush.
Book your perfect game drive today by looking to our available African safari tour packages, and selecting the ideal experience for you and your fellow travellers.